04 November 1998
Researchers call for ban on ‘terminator gene’

THE worlds largest agricultural research organisation has called for a ban on the so-called “terminator” gene which makes plants produce only sterile seeds.

The United Nations-funded Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research recommended that its 16 member institutes ban the technology in their crop-improvement programmes.

A patent on the gene was issued last March to the US Department of Agriculture and a small cotton seed company, Delta and Pine Land.

The gene was developed to protect the intellectual property of the seed companies by preventing farmers saving seed from one years crop to plant the following years crop.

Critics such as the Rural Advancement Foundation International, an American farmers organisation, fears that terminator technology could make rice and wheat production privately monopolised.

Delta and Pine Land does not expect to apply any seeds to fields before 2005.

The company is the subject of a takeover by Monsanto, which is itself the subject of some controversy over its plans to introduce genetically modified crops.